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Eye allergies

Eye allergies overview

Thousands of us experience the miseries of allergies, with allergic reactions involving the eyes being a common complaint. An allergic reaction that affects the conjunctiva, a clear layer of skin overlying the eyes, is commonly referred to as allergic conjunctivitis.

Allergic conjunctivitis is divided into several major subtypes, but the most common subtypes are seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (SAC) and perennial allergic conjunctivitis (PAC). SAC and PAC are triggered by an immune reaction involving a sensitised individual and an allergen. Simply stated, this means that if you are allergic to a particular substance and then come into contact with it, you experience an allergic reaction (ie itching, sneezing).

Although it frequently occurs, allergic conjunctivitis is most commonly seen in areas with high seasonal allergens.

Eye allergy causes

Ocular (eye) allergies often affect the conjunctiva, a clear layer of skin overlying the eyes. This clear layer of skin is the same type of skin that lines the inside surface of the nose. Because these two areas are so similar, the same allergens (substances that induce an allergic reaction) can trigger the same allergic response in both areas.

Common allergens include:

  • Pollen
  • Moulds
  • House dust mites
  • Pet dander

The main difference between SAC and PAC is the timing of the symptoms.

If you have SAC, you generally have problems for a short period of time. You may be bothered in the spring by tree pollen, in the summer by grass pollen or in the autumn by moulds. Generally your symptoms resolve during other times of the year, especially in the winter.

If you have PAC, your problems probably last throughout the year. Instead of outdoor allergens you generally have problems with indoor allergens such as house dust mites and pet dander. Seasonal outdoor allergens may worsen your problems if you are sensitive to them as well.


Eye allergy symptoms

SAC and PAC have identical symptoms, only the timing of the symptoms is different.

  • With SAC your symptoms are generally limited to a particular season (ie spring, summer, autumn)
  • With PAC your symptoms probably last all year.

Very often the symptom of itching indicates an allergic reaction. This is true of allergic conjunctivitis, where the primary symptom is itchy eyes. In addition to this you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Tearing
  • Burning sensation
  • Blurred vision
  • Mattering and/or mucous production


When to seek medical care

If you have allergies but can identify and avoid whatever you are allergic to, your allergies should improve markedly. If you are unable to identify or avoid the allergens, seeking treatment for your eye-related allergy symptoms from your doctor or pharmacist can help to keep the symptoms at bay.

  • If you have SAC, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor prior to the season in which you have allergy symptoms in order to start treatment before they begin.
  • If you have PAC, follow-up appointments with your doctor may be helpful to monitor your eye-related allergies. Occasional flare-ups of your symptoms may require more frequent visits. Consultation with an allergy specialist may be very beneficial.

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